There is a looming probability that the Lahore Metro Bus will be hit by a price hike soon. The Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) has suggested to the Punjab cabinet to increase the Lahore metro bus fare by Rs10. The final decision to increase prices lies with the Punjab cabinet, which is yet to pass a verdict on this.
The increase in prices of the Lahore Metro is not a random proposal- it had been mulled over by the Punjab government from as late as September. In October, provincial Finance Minister Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht had announced that the government was going to reduce the Rs12 billion annual subsidies to the Punjab Metro Bus Service, yet due to a backlash from PML-N, and users of the bus service, this the plan did not go through. The PMTA had previously suggested a price increase in bus fares, but the recommendation was overturned by the Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Usman Buzdar.
This time, however, there is more of a likelihood that the increase in bus fares will come to be. The Prime Minister in a recent meeting with the CM Punjab lamented the spending on the Metro Bus Service, which, according to the PM, should have been allocated for uplift of education and health sectors.
The government is in a difficult situation. The subsidies for the Punjab Metro are enormous and unsustainable. Yet with the IMF deal finalised, there is going to be inflation for many products in the market, particularly for gas. These price hikes will be debilitating for the lower and middle classes. With the increasingly difficult living standards that will follow the rise in prices, it would be cruel to now make the Lahore Metro, which is the primary source of transport for a majority of people, more expensive. We would recommend the government to stall on the decision and wait out the ride.